After months of haggling over employer provisions and the expansion of workers’ rights, a controversial workers’ compensation reform bill has finally passed the Colorado Senate and now awaits the approval Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The Denver Business Journal reported that House Bill 1383 was voted through by a 19-16 majority last Monday (May 5)—meaning Colorado is one step closer to allowing workers injured on-the-job the right to choose between two more certified doctors.
While this passage by the Senate is a victory for the bill’s supporters and those seeking reform for the outdated workers’ compensation system currently in place, it did not come without some major compromises.
During the grueling negotiation process to get the bill on the Senate floor, business interest groups were able to get rid of a provision that would have eliminated a current law which allows employers to lower injury settlements by 50 percent in cases where a worker was not following safety rules when the injury occurred.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Angela Williams of Denver, also was forced to cut out a condition aimed at reducing the number of settlements that end with workers leaving their job.
Lastly, the original draft of the reform sought to expand the number of doctor choices for injured employees, arguing that workers should be able to choose their own physician to treat them for injuries.
This was the bill’s main objective…..
Although the idea of choosing a “willing provider” was shot down, the final bill did succeed in doubling the number of doctors that must be offered by an employer as options for diagnosing and treating work-related injuries.
Essentially, this would give workers who are injured on-the-job more options for receiving medical treatment so they can get back to work. Many Coloradoans believe the current system is tilted in favor of companies, rather than employees.
State Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of the heavily industrial district of Commerce City says that we can’t wait any longer for changes to be made in workers’ comp law. “The fact is that we haven’t updated [workers’ comp law] in 20 years, and the world is a completely different place,” Ulibarri said. “Twenty years ago, we weren’t seen as an advanced technology leader. Now, we are.”
However, even if the governor signs this reform bill into law, the fact is that Colorado continues to be one of the lowest-cost states for workers’ compensation insurance. And while that may be good for businesses, it often falls on the injured worker to foot the medical bill for their on-the-job accident.
If you get into a dispute with your employer about coverage for an injury you received while at work, it is critical that you learn about your right to compensation to ensure that you don’t get underpaid. Insurance companies and businesses have skilled legal representation, and so should you.
Get expert legal advice from R. Mack Babcock by scheduling a free consultation today.